"Whether or not eSports are 'real' sports fundamentally misses the point – what matters is that even today it draws huge audiences who are passionately engaged in the content."
- Consultant Prashob Menon on why eSports should be called up to the majors.
Now that the United States has recognized eSports players as pro athletes and ESPN has made broadcasting deals with the likes of Valve and the MLG, When does it make sense for major broadcast networks to commit to covering video games the way they cover college basketball?
Media consultant Prashob Menon believes the time is now, and in a recent report on why eSports could be our next major league sport he lays out a smorgasbord of data to support his argument. If you're a developer interested in making popular, sustainable eSports, it's a worthwhile read.
Though Menon makes it clear that eSports are still far outclassed by heavy-hitters like football or basketball when it comes to generating revenue worldwide -- the MLB and the NFL generate roughly $10 billion apiece each year, while eSports falls just short of $200 million -- there's still lots of room for these games and their media partners to grow, as ESPN did in the '70s after investing heavily in the broadcast rights for college sports.
"There are likely few media opportunities with the potential of eSports," writes Menon. "Whoever builds the necessary structure, stability, economics, and community engagement could find themselves with an empire that rivals – or even surpasses – ESPN's."
And while Menon weakens his argument a bit by conflating eSports enthusiasts with the entirety of Twitch's viewership, the numbers he cites about the streaming platform's rising popularity suggest that there's heavy demand for video game broadcasts.
"On a domestic basis, 11B minutes were watched in March – representing roughly 14 hours for each [of] the 13M American viewers," writes Menon. "This consumption is so great, in fact, that Twitch is already larger than 70% of American television networks, as well as Amazon’s own video service."
For developers, the most important takeaway is perhaps that interest and investment in eSports is spiking; the prize pool for Valve's most recent Dota 2 championship surpassed that of the U.S. Open, and Menon's metrics (below) suggests that the genre still has plenty of room to grow.
You can read his full report, replete with reams of data, over on the Redef website.